Filipino civilians had better access to food than the American POWs and internees, but were targets of the most savage attrocities imaginable. Japanese propaganda had little impact on the Filipinos. Few Filipinos wanted to attend schools and learn Japanese. And in the countryside the Japanese requisitioned crops and far, animals with little or no compensation, and not invommonly cosiderable brutality. Unlike the Dutch, the Americans were in the process of granting independence when the Jpanese invaded--real independence and not meer propaganda posturing. And Japanese behavior during the occupation only futher alienated the Filippino people. The situation escalated when President Roosevelt acceeded to General MacArthur's demand that after the Marianas, the next target would be the Philippines and not Formosa (Taiwan) (July 1944). Formosa actually made more strategic sense. The decession saved the lives of many POWs and internees hovering near death by starvation, but it put the Filipino people in a war zone and the Japanese turned very vindicative knowing that most Filipinos were strongly pro-American. The Filipinps no doubt were delighted when the Americans began landing on Leyte (October 1944), but few Filipinos or Americans for that matter understood the barbarity that the Japanese would unleash on the civilian population still under their control. Therte were many attrocities reported, including whole villages heing destroyed. Nothing approached, however, what the Japanese did in Manila. The Imperial Marines and others in the Manila garison refused to either evacuate the city or surender. And they decided to take every civilian in their grasp with them, often after first raping the women. Photographs of Manila rotinely showed bodies of Filipino civilains scattered everywhere. It was the worst attrocity commotted by Japanese troops outside of China. The only difference with Nanking is that the Japanese maonly attacked civilians in individual acts of savegery rather than large-scale killing orgnazed by higher echelons.
The Japanese internment of American civilians as well as Allied civilians in other areas is a poorly described subject. Even less well covered is the Japanese treatment of the local population in occupied countries. The Japanese announced they plan to grant independence and set up a puppet regime to work with. Japanese military occupation authorities began setting up a new government. The Japanese promised the Philippions independence. They organized a Council of State made up of selected Philipinos. The Japanese military then directed civil affairs through the Council. As the War increasingkly went against the Japanese, the declared the Philippines independent to gain more domesic support (October 1943). The Japanese-pupprt republic was headed by President Jos� P. Laurel. Much propaganda was made of this. In fact the Japanese retained total control of the Islands and no real political activity was permitted. Plans were layed to exploit Philippino resources to support the war effort. We do not yet have details on the Japanese economic exploitation. This was complicated by 1943 with the increasing diificulties of shipping to Japan as a result of the expanding American submarine campasign and the growing resistance movement. The Japanese puppet regime, however, generated little support among the Filipino people, in part because of the behavior of the Japanese occuption forces. The Filipino people suffered greviously under Japanese occupation. The Japanese press ganged large numbers of Filipinos into slave labor camps. Filipino women were forced to work in brothels operated by the Japanese military. Important members of the Philippines elite worked with the Jaapanese in occupation political institutions. This later became a political isue. Collaborators had various motives. Some though that collasboration helped shield the Filipino people from Japanese oppresion. Here President Quezon himself thought this might be necessary in the circumstances. Others were concerned with protecting family and personal interests. Others were influenced by Japanese propaganda promoting pan-Asian solidarity. Here it is easy for people not facing draconian Japanese repression to criticize collaborators. Of course there werecdifferent levels of collaboration. Those people who reported on theresistance is a very different matter. Others collaborated to obtain information to pass on to the resistance and the Americans.
The situation escalated when President Roosevelt acceeded to General MacArthur's demand that after the Marianas, the next target would be the Philippines and not Formosa (Taiwan) (July 1944). Formosa actually made more strategic sense. The decession saved the lives of many POWs and internees hovering near death by starvation, but it put the Filipino people in a war zone and the Japanese turned very vindicative knowing that most Filipinos were strongly pro-American. The Filipinps no doubt were delighted when the Americans began landing on Leyte (October 1944), but few Filipinos or Americans for that matter understood the barbarity that the Japanese would unleash on the civilian population still under their control.
The Philippines had a population of some 20 million people. About 1 million Filipinps would perish during the Japanese occupation and insuing struggle for liberation.
There were many attrocities reported, including whole villages heing destroyed. The reprisals after the liberation of the POW and internment camps were especially brutal. There are many individual accounts, many involving incredibkle heroism.. Of course countless other did not survive to tell their stories. Some of the accounts were efforts to obtain information, but many of these attrocities were for revenge or even entertainment.
Manuel Awatin, sixty years old, was the lone survivor of a group of fourteen who were lined up on a river bank. Two were mothers each carrying a small child. Awatin saw the two children snatched from their mother�s arms and smashed against the trunk of a coconut tree. Then they bayoneted the mothers along with the other twelve men, including Awatin. He alone survived this ordeal.
Isabelo Compania: The Japanesr beat Compania in the face with a hammer and then burned his penis with a lit cigarette.
Crispin Labaria: Attorney Crispin Labaria was tortured by the Japanese in an effort to learn where guerillas were hiding. After a vicious beating he was bayoneted. Somehow he survived to tell his story.
Francisco Dominisce: The Japanese roasted Dominisce alive. They tied his hands and feet and then used a pole to suport him over an open fire.
Esteban Fernandez was caught hiding in a box. The Japanese shut the lid, locked it and threw him into an open fire.
Felipe Mendes: The Japanese tied Mendes feet with wire and then tossed him over board and pulled him after a motor launch in an effort to drown him. He suceeded in moving his legs enough to breathe and stay alive. Irritated, the Japanese officer overseeing the action ordered him hauled in and cut off his legs and then yhrough him overboard again. The blood attracted a large shark.
Jose Reyes: The Japanese inserted a wire through Reyes cheeks. It was used like a horse halter and he was led around for 3 days to show what happened to recalcitrant civilians. The Japanese then bayoneted him.
Inayo Velez: Velez was a elderly man. A Japanese soldier hit him the face with his rifle butt and then did not allow him to eat for the next 6 days. [IMTT, Doc. No. 2726.]
Despite the countless attrocities perpetrated against the Japanese people, nothing approached, however, what the Japanese did in Manila. The Americans after securing Leyte, landing in overwealming force at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon. The American 6th Army began and trapid drive south toward Manila (January 9, 1945). Advanced American units reached Manila and tanks crashed throgh the gates Santo Tomas University in the northern suburbs of the city. The Japanese had used the University as a POW camp. The Americans after the Japanese invasion (December 1941) had declared Manila an open city. It was hoped that the Japanese woild do the same. And General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the 'Tiger of Malaya' had been assigned to oversee the defense of the Philippines just before the American landings on Leyte. Realising that he did not have a force capable of defending Manila, he fought a delaying action whikle he withdrew his 14th Army and supplies to the mountains of northeastern Luzon. Here in the rugged terraine he could fight a protracted defensive campaign. The Japanese navy forces, including marines, did not come under his direct command. He ordered Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi when the Americams reached the city to retreat into the mountains and join him. Iwabuchi had no intention of doing so. Rather he decided to fight it out to the last man and tragically last Filipino. The Imperial Marines and others in the Manila garison refused to either evacuate the city or surender. And they decided to take every civilian in their grasp with them, often after first raping the women. Japanese Marines and other navy troops retreated across the Pasig River and blew all the bridges. This began the 30-day battle for Manila. Some 50,000 Filipino civilians would be killed and the city leveled. Photographs of Manila rotinely showed bodies of Filipino civilains scattered everywhere. It was the worst attrocity committed by Japanese troops outside of China. The only difference with Nanking other than the number of murders is that the Japanese in Manila mainly attacked civilians in individual acts of savegery rather than large-scale killing orgnazed by higher echelons. Much of the slaughter was individual massacres and gang rapes. Several killing actions stamd out. Japanese soldiers broke into the cappel at De La Salle University and bayonetted some 50 men women and childrten. The Japanese machine gunned 800 men, women and children seeking sanctuary at St. Paul's College. And even larger action was conducted in the barrio of Calamba where 2,500 Filipinos were shot and bayoneted. [Bergee] A reader writes, "I recently watched a war documentary that claimed that Manila was the second most destroyed city in the war after Berlin." We are not sure about the metrics here. I'd say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fairly destroyed and Tokyo as well as a result of the fire bombingd. Central Berlin was destroyed, both because of the Allied bombing and then Red Army assault, but the outlying suburbs were often intact. Manila was surely in the running. Manila was not heavily bombed, but was largely destroyed when the Americans went after the Japanese which turned every important building into a strong point.
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, at Tokyo (composed of a judge from Australia, Britain, Canada, (Nationalist) China, France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Soviet Union, and the United States) tried Japanese leaders. The Tokyo War Crimes Trial defendents included a select group of generals, admirals and diplomats. Many Japanese believed that after these trials, war criminals had been justly tried and punished. The Tokyo Trials had, however, been much more narrowly focused than the comparable abnd better known trials in Germany. General Douglas MacArthur commaded the occupation force ans substantially influenced the judicial proceedings. He concluded that it was necessary to maintain governmental continuity in the form of the Emperor. This became official U.S. Government policy. As a result, the procedutors in the War Crimes trials scrupulously avoided any mention of Emperor Hirohito. The defendants out of loyalty to the Emperior did the same, despite the fact that it would have helped their defenses to claim that they were following his orders. When Tojo told his lawyer that "the subjects of Japan can never say or do anything against His Majesty's will," the prosecutors convinced him not to say that on the stand. The U.S. Goverment decesion to exempt Emperor Hirohito from culpability for the War and ensuing war crimes lessened the need for serious examination in Japan of individual and national responsibility. Many Japanese (unlike the Germans) continued to believe that the War was a legitimate attempt to defend the country. Few Japanese were informed of the full extent of the crimes committed by the Japanese military in occupied countries. Most Japanese citizens immediately after the War were focused on the immedite task of survival and challenges of rebuilding Japan after the destructive Allied bombing.
Bergee, Lee K. "Japan's atrocities against Filipino civilians," Suite101 contributor (March 25, 2013).
Brackman, Arnold C. The Other Nuremburg Trial: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial (William & Morrow & Co.: New York, 1987).
International Military Tribunal at Tokyo (IMTT). Document No. 2726, (May 3, 1946 to November 12, 1948). A historian could spend his entire career describing the countless attrocities the Japanese committed against Filipino civilians during the World War II occupation and the ensuing American struggle to liberate the Philippines. This document consists of 14,618 pages of sworn affidavits from both eyewitnesses and victims. The savagery decribes defies understanding.
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